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Australia Issues National Hydrogen Strategy

Last month the Council of Australian Governments Energy Council – “a Ministerial forum for the Commonwealth [of Australia], states and territories and New Zealand, to work together in the pursuit of national energy reforms” – issued a 137-page report entitled Australia’s National Hydrogen Strategy. For those focused on how ammonia energy will go from promising idea to practical reality, this is what the next step – the one after the discovery of ammonia's virtues as a hydrogen carrier – could look like. The Strategy is detailed, comprehensive, and concerned with both practical measures in the near term and the arc of progress over the long term. And embedded within it are three ideas that are likely to have on-going relevance for ammonia energy implementation.

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Gigawatt-scale electrolyzer manufacturing and deployment

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Electrolyzers have featured heavily at this year's Ammonia Energy Conference, which ended today. How much can innovation increase efficiency? How far can volume manufacturing drive down capex? How much could process integration with Haber-Bosch deliver improved ammonia production? How realistically can new, sophisticated strategies optimize variable and baseload power inputs? These technical questions are all important, but none defines profitability. While progress is being made on all these fronts of research and development, major industrial projects are still moving forward.

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Green Finance Prospects for Ammonia Energy

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Green finance, the deployment of capital to sustainable pursuits, has been gathering momentum for a decade. Kristoffer Olsen, now an independent consultant and formerly a member of the Ammonia Energy Association’s Board of Directors, argued in an August 2019 Ammonia Energy post that “Green Finance and Green Bonds can directly contribute to the decarbonisation of ammonia and future production of green ammonia fuel.” Other recent indications lend credence to Olsen’s assertion.

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Safety of Ammonia Energy: First Up, the Maritime Use Case?

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Ammonia.  A hazardous chemical, no doubt.  But is it too hazardous to use as an energy vector?  This is a legitimate question that must be addressed as other aspects of the ammonia energy concept advance.  It is also a question whose unique context can be evoked with two other questions: Haven’t the safety issues already been identified and resolved over the last 100 years of widespread agricultural and industrial use?  And even if they have, how will the general public react when proposals for expanded ammonia infrastructure suddenly appear? The earliest tip of this particular iceberg came into view this year when the Dutch naval architecture firm C-Job released Safe and Effective Application of Ammonia as a Marine Fuel.

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Ammonia in China: change is coming

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: In the ammonia industry, Chinese data is notoriously hard to verify. Without question, the country produces more ammonia today than any other nation, and yet it has recently closed million of tons of annual capacity. Its cities are smothered in pollution, and its coal-based ammonia plants use the dirtiest technologies available. Huge questions remain. One answer is clear: China has repeatedly proven its desire and ability to become a global leader in developing and deploying clean technologies in the explicit effort to combat climate change. Within China, therefore, the question of large-scale adoption of ammonia energy technologies is increasingly becoming simpler. When?

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The mining industry: a driving force behind green ammonia

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Ammonia is too often assumed to be only a fertilizer. This assumption overlooks other important uses for the chemical, large and small, in every corner of our economy. Some of the recent green ammonia announcements suggest that these other industries might, in fact, present better economic fundamentals for green ammonia investments than the fertilizer industry. Alternatively, these companies might have set their sights on becoming first movers in developing the commodities of the future. Time will tell but, if the last 12 months is any guide, the mining industry could be a force for change in the ammonia industry.

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Technology Advances for Blue Hydrogen and Blue Ammonia

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: Blue hydrogen – defined as the version of the element whose production involves carbon capture and sequestration (CCS) – represents an alluring prospect for the energy transition.  The primary “blue” feedstocks, natural gas and coal, currently set the low-cost benchmarks for storable energy commodities.  With the addition of CCS, they are expected to set the low-cost benchmarks for low-carbon storable energy commodities.  Blue ammonia is very much included in this frame of reference since CCS could be applied to the CO2 waste stream from the Haber-Bosch process.  But neither blue hydrogen nor blue ammonia are sure things; a variety of technical, financial, regulatory, and social issues could stand in the way of their widespread adoption. But work on new technologies that have the potential to ease the way for blue products has come increasingly into view over the last twelve months.

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The maritime sector’s ammonia learning curve: moving from scenario analysis to product development

ANNUAL REVIEW 2019: The maritime industry is learning about ammonia fast. It is searching for a new bunker fuel, and ammonia is one of the few options that can realistically deliver a 50% reduction in the sector's GHG emissions by 2050. The IMO declared this target in April 2018 and, in last year's Annual Review, I wrote about all the reports that were published demonstrating that ammonia could deliver this outcome. In the last 12 months, by contrast, we have moved quickly beyond analysis and into engineering design, technology testing, and product development.